In the Cerrado, deforestation alerts increase 19% compared to February last year

08 março 2024

According to data from Deter system, the scenario indicates a migration of deforestation from the Amazon, which continues to fall, to the Cerrado, where destruction is startling
By WWF-Brazil

Data from Deter, a monitoring system from Inpe (National Institute for Space Research), for the month of February 2024 released this Friday (8) show a 19% increase in deforestation alerts in the Cerrado compared to the same month 2023. The Amazon continues in the opposite direction, with a 30% drop compared to February last year.

In recent months, Deter figures have shown that efforts to combat deforestation in the Amazon are paying off, but that the transfer of destruction to the Cerrado is worrying.

Considering the Deter year, which runs from August 2023 to February 2024, the Amazon recorded 2,350 km² under deforestation alert, a 56% drop compared to the same period of the previous year. In the opposite direction, 3,798 km² of native vegetation lost in the Cerrado were detected between August 2023 and February 2024, an increase of 63%.

“We have been following with great concern the divergent deforestation trends between the Amazon and the Cerrado. Due to the fragility of legislation and the dynamics of productive arrangements, the Cerrado has suffered losses that are difficult to reverse. The biome is rich in endemic species, relevant for the number of river basins and unique for the diversity of people and traditions”, says Mariana Napolitano, strategy director at WWF-Brazil.

In the Cerrado, the Forest Code is more permissible than in the Amazon, so a significant part of the destruction has legal authorisations provided by municipal and state governments. But the effects of the biome's devastation are worrying.

“The deforestation of the Cerrado contributes to the worsening of the climate crisis that already affects us directly with irregular rainfall, historic droughts, extreme heat waves and floods. It is important to highlight that without Cerrado there is no Amazon, the imbalance in one area will certainly affect the environmental services of another”, adds Napolitano.

Tocantins and Maranhão states under alert

In the Cerrado, the main deforestation front is the region that covers the states of Matopiba (Maranhão, Tocantins, Piauí and Bahia), due to the expansion of agriculture. Year to date, Maranhão and Tocantins have presented the worst results.

In Maranhão, 212 km² were recorded under deforestation alert in February 2024, an increase of 316% compared to February last year. Considering the Deter year, (between August 2023 and February 2024), the destruction was twice as high as that recorded in the same months of the previous year.

In Tocantins, February 2024 recorded 158 km² under deforestation alert, an increase of 136% compared to the same month in 2023. Between August 2023 and February 2024 (Deter year), destruction in the State was three times greater than in the previous period.

Impacts on Agribusiness

The Cerrado, traditionally known as Brazil's water tank, is the priority biome for the country's water security, because it contributes around 40% of all freshwater in Brazil. It is home to around 5% of all species on the planet, making it one of the most biodiverse places on Earth.

In the biome, the main cause of deforestation is the advance of agriculture, which, in turn, has already felt the consequences of the climate crisis. “In 2023 alone, requests for judicial recovery from rural producers grew 535% compared to 2022, due to crop losses and increased costs. Maintaining native vegetation and recovering deforested areas are priority actions that the agribusiness sector needs to implement, if it wants to keep its leading position in the trade balance”, explains Ana Crisostomo, Conservation specialist and leader of WWF-Brazil's zero conversion strategy.

“As it contains eight of the country's 12 main river basins, the Cerrado guarantees a supply of water for both human consumption and crop health. By reducing deforestation, we are automatically contributing to climate balance, maintaining the springs and quality of rivers that favour the rain cycle. It is no coincidence that deforested areas are experiencing a delay in the start of the rainy season, directly affecting agricultural harvests. Researchers from UFMG (Federal University of Minas Gerais) point out that the exaggerated loss of natural areas has already reduced an average of 12% of the country's grain productivity. Now, much more than before, it is urgent for the agricultural sector to make a greater commitment to environmental conservation”, says the expert.
In recent months, Deter figures have shown that efforts to combat deforestation in the Amazon are paying off, but that the transfer of destruction to the Cerrado is worrying.
© © Moisés Muálem / WWF-Brasil